Beyond the Boxscore
It's freezing out & Dallas is Super freaked: But this Bowl's real problem runswider
Almost as soon as you pull in front of a Dallas hotel, everyone starts apologizing to you for the weather. The valet guys, the bellhops, the front desk clerks, it's a race to see who can say sorry first.
Go out to eat in one of the quiet restaurants and it's more of the same. Sorry for the cold. Sorry for the ice. It's not usually like this. Such a shame.
The whole scene is extremely jarring if you're a regular Dallas visitor. This is a town that usually wants out-of-towners to thank them for being there. The swift switch shows just how Super freaked out Dallasites (or are they calling themselves "North Texans" this week?) are about the cold face the region is showing the world in Super Bowl XLV.
Concern's already been voiced that the Tuesday ice storm will cripple the chances of more Super Bowls being hosted in Jerry World. Yahoo! Sports columnist Les Carpenter has argued that the NFL's big game should be forever rotated between Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, Phoenix and Tampa. No Texas allowed.
This all caused Jerry Jones — ever the master promoter — to declare the whole ice thing, "inordinate." As in, why stress over an "inordinate" event? It will never happen again ... Now, look up at that scoreboard, son.
But while the roads were slippery, there was hardly anyone else to slip into — unless you came across an official Super Bowl bus or a police car. The entire Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area essentially shut down so Media Day could go on.
The storm has caused the cancelation of a few kid events on Wednesday, but by the time the celebrities are really supposed to take over the town, it figures to be mostly forgotten.
"We're sold out Thursday through Sunday," said Don Robinson, the chief engineer at a downtown hotel. "Anything before that isn't a huge deal."
There is a major issue with this North Texas-branded Super Bowl. But it has nothing to do with ice. In fact, the ice would have meant little if this other fact didn't dominate XLV: This Super Bowl is simply too spread out.
In the desire to brand this game as a North Texas Super Bowl, in the need to involve every city that matters in the Metroplex, the NFL and the local organizers have turned the week into a logistical nightmare. Where do fans — the overwhelming majority of those without tickets — go to soak up the Super Bowl week atmosphere?
No one truly knows because there's no one answer, no true central big game point.
Fort Worth, with its walkable downtown and easy ride to Arlington, stands out as a logical choice. And ESPN is broadcasting live from the city's Sundance Square, creating something of a festive atmosphere (on the non-freezing days). But the NFL Experience — the fanfest that many more locals will attend than the game itself — is in downtown Dallas at the Convention Center. Many of the best parties are downtown as well. The official media hotel and Radio Row — the Super Bowl week tradition where celebs (both minor and major) go from radio interview to radio interview in one big ballroom — are both downtown.
There are tons of signs downtown touting the Super Bowl as well, but Dallas doesn't really feel like the game's home.
The Steelers are staying in Fort Worth and the Packers are out in Irving.
"I don't know what town I'm in," Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji cracked. Don't sweat it. Whatever one it happens to be at the moment, you'll likely be heading to another one soon anyway. With a 35-minute car ride in-between. On a non-ice day.
That's the way of Super Bowl XLV.
The NFL Fan Jam with Kidd Rock performing is out in Grand Prairie. Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is hosting a celebrity bowling tournament Friday night in Grapevine (otherwise known as the home to the mega conference resort center Gaylord Texan, which the NFL has booked out all 1,511 rooms in for sponsors). Fort Worth also gets The Taste of the NFL celebrity chef event on Saturday.
And of course, the actual game is in Arlington, a largely depressing city of 400,000 with no center — unless you're looking to hit up Six Flags in 20-degree weather.
And people think Houston is spread out? The distance between Reliant Stadium and Discovery Green isn't even in the same ballpark as the hike between Dallas and Arlington.
In fact, one of the greatest benefits of this North Texas Super Bowl is that it could make Houston look more attractive to the NFL again by comparison.
Of course, the Bayou City already has a Final Four coming up in March and another in 2016 (Jerry World gets college basketball's grand finale in 2014). Houston's Local Organizing Committee for the Final Four is aware of what Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington-Irving-Grapevine-Grand Prairie is doing for Super Bowl XLV. But they're not exactly obsessing over it.
"I don't know that it's necessarily something we'd study closely," said Doug Hall, vice president game, facility and LOC management for the 2011 Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee. "We'll look at it, but Houston has hosted a lot of major events and those are more important indicators to what we're doing.
"Our plan is pretty unique."
As for the Dallas' feverish concern over the weather? The Super Bowl will be held in Indianapolis next year and East Rutherford, N.J. in 2014. The NFL is embracing the freeze. The difference comes in that Indianapolis' downtown is compact and everything will be centered there with little need for sliding highway drives. Ditto for 2014 when no one will be pretending that Manhattan isn't the actual hub of Super Bowl week, gleaming stadium address aside.
If the people in North Texas want to worry, they should focus on the right doubt creator. The ice is not what's making this party frigid.